SRUK / EPSRC Hackathon for a Diagnostic Tool 

Grant Call Summary 

‘The SRUK / EPSRC Hackathon’ was a three-day event held in February 2020 which brought together clinicians, bioengineers, data scientists and bioscientists from University and industry to produce ideas for new devices which could easily and objectively measure the skin to diagnose and monitor the effects of scleroderma. The modified Rodnan Skin Score (mRSS), the current method of measuring the skin, requires extensive training and due to the subjective nature of the test, can result in variability of results between clinicians.

Four of the projects which were developed during the Hackathon event submitted applications for funding, totalling £418,000, of which two were funded. This call was carried out in partnership with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) who assisted in the delivery of the Sandpit event and co-funded one of the awarded projects.

Project Title: Objective Assessment of Scleroderma Skin Tissues (OASIS)

  • Lead Investigator: Dr Peter Worsley
  • Co-Investigators: Dr David Childs (University of Glasgow), Dr Ashleigh Boyd (University College London), Dr Francesco Del Galdo (University of Leeds), Dr Rodney Gush (Moor Instruments Ltd)
  • Institution: University of Southampton
  • Amount Funded: £117,939.17 (SRUK funded)
  • Research Strategy Area: Early Detection and Diagnosis, Precision Medicine

Project summary:
OASIS – Objective Assessment of Scleroderma Skin Tissues. The existing method of measuring changes in the skin can vary depending on who conducts the test – their perceptions and levels of training. OASIS seeks to ‘repurpose’ technologies already in clinical use to develop and test a new and simplified technique to objectively assess the skin and support clinical management of scleroderma through skin assessment. 

Project Title: A bio-inspired solution for a window into the culprit of disease (SCIDEX)

  • Lead Investigator: Dr Benjamin Almquist
  • Co-Investigators: Dr Claire Higgins (Imperial College London), Professor Maya Butch (University of Manchester), Dr Francesco Del Galdo (University of Leeds)
  • Institution: Imperial College London
  • Amount Funded: £119,998.30 (Co-funded by the EPSRC)
  • Research Strategy Area: Early Detection and Diagnosis, Precision Medicine

Project summary:
Systemic sclerosis is a highly complex condition. There are gaps in our knowledge of both the risk of progression from ‘secondary Raynaud’s’ to scleroderma and for those with scleroderma the clinical outcomes which would indicate response to treatments.  Skin blistering can provide valuable information into ‘biomarkers’, small molecules in the skin which may indicate that a person might be in the early stages of scleroderma or show that there is a measurable response to treatment.  The investigators will establish the feasibility of a novel, wearable device to non-invasively monitor changes within the skin in real-time. More importantly the team will work with those living with Raynaud’s and Scleroderma to assess whether this system is acceptable to them, the likely end-users.